|Image: Courtesy of Flickr.|
Imagine that you are at the store, waiting in line for the cashier. You quickly take a glance at the magazine rack, and you cannot believe what you just have seen. A celebrity who you would be able to recognize in a heartbeat now seems so unfamiliar with a ridiculously thin body, an elongated neck, perfect skin, and no blemishes whatsoever! Is this real, you might ask yourself? Of course not. This is far from real. However, you leave the store feeling a little subconscious about your own appearance compared to the magazine beauty who is ideally respected among the media. Now, with that in mind, it is important to note the current uses of photoshop which are in conjunction with modern, deceiving advertisements. But as implied before, shouldn’t there be a concrete point in the media where enough is enough with all of the image editing? Because of the significant impact photoshopping may leave on insecure individuals, the government should enforce regulations throughout the digital world unless advertisers have already voluntarily limited their use of this application.
"I became immersed in this world very quickly. I gave up the agency and photography and delved into the dark world of anorexics and bulimics. I realized that only legislation can change the situation...There was no time to waste, so many girls were dieting to death” (Adi Barkman). On March 9th, 2012, the Israeli parliament passed the Photoshop Laws, which regulate both the fashion and advertising industry. These laws prohibit the use of models who are underweight as determined by the Body Mass Index, and they also regulate the usage of Photoshop in media and advertising. Adi Barkman, a photographer and fashion model agent, aided many anorexics and bulimics to help overcome their insecurities, and he grasped that there must be an immediate change regarding the way in which image editing has been used. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that there is a direct correlation between the impact of photoshopping and eating disorders. Actually, "of American, elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight" (Martin, 2010). Doesn’t that sound crazy, especially given the fact that they are elementary school girls? But I’m afraid it is the truth; I know that I have multiple times doubted my appearance compared to these ‘perfect’ (but PHOTOSHOPPED) models. Furthermore, even the adults agree with me: out of a surveyed 1,000 adults, 70% believed that if ads used more realistic sized models, we, as the digital world, could potentially prevent harmful eating disorders (Martin, 2010). All in all, it is important to recognize how the use of photoshop has been consistently exerted into the daily lives of individuals, and it has gotten to an extent where it has become too extreme by becoming a main contributor to very damaging eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia.
|Image: Courtesy of Flickr.|
In addition to engendering eating disorders, the use of photoshopping in advertisements can lead to the unrealistic expectations consumers may have about the product being advertised. The National Advertising Division (NAD) director, Andrea Levine, voices that "you can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then – in the mice type – have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’” Recently, it was announced that Proctor & Gamble will never again sponsor an ad for their CoverGirl Mascara since the amount of enhancement and photoshopping used to make the eyelashes look longer and thicker was astounding and quite unrealistic in their previous ad. These types of ads can be quite deceiving to customers, since in reality they germinate results far from what is portrayed in the advertisement. Therefore, the NAD prescribes self-regulation among the advertising business, which luckily has been accepted by most companies since the NAD is partners with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), who has the power to fine, sue, or bring embargoes against rogue companies. As a young female, I have to agree and say that it can be quite intimidating when you see an ad that is beyond achievable. It creates this type of unrealistic expectation of the ‘right’ body image from society, and I can relate to the amount of pressure this might cause for teenagers and young women. I’m sure you can relate to a similar experience, am I right? Just think about it.
However, there is another side to this story. The Associate Creative Director at Bensimon Byrne, Dan Strasser, points out that “it’s just expected. Everything gets retouched … even if you’re just taking a photo of a natural setting. You’re going to tweak the colour balance.” It has been recognized how retouching affects all types of advertising and marketing in positive ways. I mean, come on, how many times have you seen the McDonalds commercial and right in front of your face is the definition of burger beauty? I’m sure that has probably happened to most of you, and later on, when you decide to go there and buy that burger, not only do you receive a smaller and less appetizing one, but you actually increase the profit of the company and their advertisement. In addition, there have been claims made by Sasha Grujicic that “you cannot court consumers without creating some gap of where you are and where you want to be. Advertising is precisely aimed at that gap.” By increasing consumer attention and advertising dollars, photoshopping is an entire culture; an entire industry significant to various companies.
To conclude, I believe that the excessive use of photoshopping has crossed its limits, and it serves to function as both an important yet deceiving application in the advertising business. However, as discussed above, there should be government regulations on photoshopping, like in Israel, and advertisers should limit its use in their campaigns to help eliminate the insecurity it may spawn among young women.
Overall, I really enjoyed doing this project, and it exposed me to prevalent issues that deserve to be recognized and debated upon today. Photoshopping has always been a topic of interest to me; however, I never really looked at it as an application which should be monitored legally. This project enabled me to successfully do that, and I have gotten so much out of it. I believe that photoshopping or any type of image editing should be regulated by the government in order to prevent any insecurities or "ideal" expectations which might rise from it. This topic closely ties in to what we have explored this year in my Digital Citizenship class: Should there be limits on an application like Photoshop when used to manipulate images? What are its effects on both women and men? Are they positive or negative? I found myself asking those questions in my head when we covered the Digital Rights and Responsibilities unit, specifically editing and ethics. That is when I got the idea to write my blog about the uses of Photoshop (specifically in magazine and modern advertisements) and whether or not they should be regulated. When I began researching, I was fascinated by the information that I had collected- there were so many shocking statistics, specifically how magazines/ads influence elementary school girls to achieve the "ideal body image." It was so crazy to know that girls (at the ages between 8-11) have already been exposed and influenced by the media on how they "should" look. I was also startled when I read statistics that revealed a direct correlation between the impact of image editing and eating disorders. These facts made me become much more passionate toward arguing my topic as strongly as it could be. I really appreciated all of the comments that I received! None of them made me change my mind about my topic since all of them helped support my main ideas I delivered throughout my blog. By doing some more research after receiving these comments, I further clarified for myself how photoshopping ads can positively affect the company's sales, like a comment pointed out; now I can fully understand the flip-side of my topic after a few weeks of publishing my original post. As mentioned before, I did have to do further research in order to reply persuasively and effectively to all of the comments. I really enjoyed doing that so I could continue to engage the reader in a conversation, and by further research, I learned more about this topic through many fascinating blogs, websites, and statistics! To conclude, I definitely got so much out of this project and the process of blogging in general; I am very intrigued by these controversial topics, and I hope to continue to research and learn about them outside of class. This project opened up my eyes to many issues in which some individuals, including myself, were not aware of before, and I think that creating a blog to spread that awareness was a very memorable and unforgettable experience.